Technology has changed the way consumers shop and their expectations when it comes to convenience. They want the option to shop physically in brick and mortar stores, as well as on the internet in online stores and marketplaces. They want to be able to purchase items on their laptops, tablets, and smartphones. They use technology to find the best deals, view product and store reviews, and consult social media for advice or warnings. Most importantly, they want their shopping experiences to be enjoyable, quick, and personalized to their specific preferences.
How can businesses give consumers all the things they want while improving their bottom line?
The answer is omnichannel retailing.
An omnichannel retailing strategy can pay off for businesses. It allows businesses to collect data and insights about their customers’ shopping behaviors across multiple channels, which gives them a comprehensive view of customers’ buying habits.
Steps for Creating an Omnichannel Retailing Strategy
Creating a dynamic and focused omnichannel marketing strategy is key to retail business success. Here are some essential steps on how to accomplish it.
1. Collect Information
The first step is to use the data collected to obtain a baseline understanding of your customers’ interactions with your business. Analyzing the data collected by your ecommerce platform will let you know how and where customers are engaging, and the places where they may need more encouragement. This is the time to drill down into your metrics like sales, traffic, specific traffic sources, bounce rate, page views, abandoned cart rate, and where potential customers drop from the checkout process.
When this information is collected, you will have a big picture view of your customers preferences and behaviors. This information will become the foundation on which you build your omnichannel strategy.
2. Cover All the Basics
Making sure that you have a firm grasp of the basics will further strengthen your foundation. Ensure that you have implemented the following:
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – Optimizing your website with keywords that achieve higher search engine rankings is crucial. You won’t achieve success if shoppers cannot find your products.
- Mobile-Friendly Websites – Ensure that every ecommerce platform you are using is mobile-friendly – either responsive to mobile device usage, or with an application that makes it easy for mobile shopping.
- Social Media Marketing – Be sure that you are taking advantage of all that social media has to offer. Engaging your existing customers as well as potential customers is vital. Social media is the easiest way to reach shoppers, and it’s also one of the least expensive marketing methods.
- Targeted Email Marketing – Using email as a marketing strategy is another low-cost, highly effective method to reach your customers. Using personalized campaigns and segmented marketing will increase its effectiveness.
3. Centralize Your Business Operations
The goal of omnichannel retailing is to create an environment in which all parts of your business are visible to each other, rather than being organized in a system of siloed channels. All departments of your business must be able to work closely together for an omnichannel strategy to be established.
This task will be fairly simple, if you are operating a small business in which you don’t have many employees or departments. However, if your business is larger, with multiple departments and staff members, you should consider reorganization so that your marketing department is accessible to all other areas. The key is to have everyone, in every department, moving toward the same goal.
You may need to reevaluate your company’s technology. A unified ecommerce software solution will ensure that all aspects of your business are visible to all your key players. Again, omnichannel strategy is based on the ability to see the big picture view while still maintaining departmental operations.
4. Discover Your Customers’ Paths
Using the information collected about your customers’ shopping habits and behaviors, you should be able to map out a typical customer’s journey through the buying process. You may have several, as customers are unique. Consider how your customers shop – do they browse your products online before clicking on your store’s website? Do they go straight to your store and make a purchase? Do they find your store by searching for specific products? Are they reaching your store via social media?
Considering all the ways that customers engage with your brand and then make purchases will give you a clear picture of what their paths look like, which in turn tells you which parts of your omnichannel marketing strategies are working, which ones are missing, and which ones need nurturing.
You don’t have to consider every path all at once. Start small, by picking the most typical customer paths to study, from inquiry or search to point of sale. For example, if you determine that many of your customers read a lot of online reviews of your products before they venture to your store to purchase them, you may consider beefing up your review process so that more customers will engage in commenting on your products. Or, you may consider adding educational content about your products that will allow your customers to read more about them before making purchases.
5. Continuously Review and Adjust
Omnichannel retailing and marketing cannot be set on autopilot. The strategies that are working well for you right now may not continue to be effective in a year, or six months, or even one month. You have to be diligent in reviewing your strategies and tweaking them to fit current trends, market evolution, and customer preferences.